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The ‘Right to Food Campaign’ and the Legislating and Monitoring of the National Food Security Frameworks in India

Asia
Civil Society
Human Rights
Public Policy
Social Movements
Campaign
Mobilisation
Delphine Thivet
University of Bordeaux
Delphine Thivet
University of Bordeaux

Abstract

The 2007-2008 alarm over the world food price upsurge and food crisis has contributed to renewed interest in food security on the global agenda. The threats posed by urban food riots and food shortages in particular have created a sense of urgency, complexity and uncertainty, increasing public and scientific attention toward the future of the global agri-food sector. This resulted in the proposal of policies – by supranational organizations like the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) – focusing mainly on boosting agricultural production, developing and disseminating better technologies, expanding international trade. However, policy responses of individual States to food insecurity seem to differ partly from this global agenda. This brings to the fore the complexity of the food security issue at the national/local level. The present Paper proposal aims to investigate the case of India, which is important for several reasons. First, as one of the world’s leading food and agricultural product exporters , India is seen as an emerging agricultural superpower. It plays a strategic role in the multilateral trade negotiations and its private and public sector are increasingly engaging in developing countries’ (mostly African) agriculture. Second, it is a country still struggling to feed its own rapidly growing population. The coexistence of adequate aggregate food supplies and hunger in India demonstrates that the focus only on increasing food production is not sufficient to tackle the risks of individual and household food insecurity. It allows reasserting, as Amartya Sen in his seminal work Poverty and Famine (1981) stated, the critical importance of the ability of individuals or households to access food or to have entitlements to it. The case of India offers a significant contrast to the conventional understanding of food security at the global level. The exploration of the concurrent and oppositional interpretations of the “food problem” and of the appropriate ways of resolving it at the national/regional level illustrates well how the framing of food security is highly sensitive to the context within which it takes place but also how, in turn, it plays a crucial role in shaping this context and eventual policy outcomes. In India, food policy is indeed intricately associated with politics, local electoral political agenda and more generally the ‘moral economy’ of the populations. This Paper highlights the role of civil society actors in the voicing of a human rights-based approach of food security. It aims more particularly to emphasize the role of the ‘Right to Food Campaign’, an informal coalition of different organizations committed to the realisation of the right to food in India, in identifying food insecure and vulnerable groups, and monitoring the integration of the right to food in regional and national food security and nutrition policy designs. Far from narrowing the ‘food problem’ to a supply issue, food activists contribute to extend the boundaries of the conventional food security framework, drawing attention on the accountability of the State with regard to the protection of the key food entitlements.